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Cafes

Red Tea Box

Posted by Talia Hart / Posted on October 30, 2012

Red Tea BoxThe Red Tea Box is a teashop and lunch spot on Queen West that's been around for about a decade. In addition to their vast tea selection, they offer a number of unique desserts, various tea accessories, and a full service kitchen, though they don't serve dinner or booze.

The front of the shop displays a centre table filled with detailed desserts and delights, such as elaborate wedding and specialty cakes. There's a double-tier flowerless (gluten free) orange almond apricot cake, chocolate hazelnut toffee cake, chocolate fudge spice cake, and vanilla rose petal white chocolate cake (very popular I'm told). As you'd expect, some of their desserts are even infused with tea, such as their Maccha cheesecake (Maccha is fine powdered green tea).

Loose-leaf tea here is a little pricier than other stores (Davids, Tea Empoirum etc.), as cups-to-go sells for $4.75. Two ounces of their loose-leaf tea usually sell between $12-21. Their tea selection is available at the front of the store, most of it stored in an antique Chinese medicine chest that sits by the cash.

Other drinks on the menu include a Hot Spicy Chai ($5.75) and Mauled Cranberry Ginger Pear ($5.75).

The Red Tea Box also offers afternoon tea and tea bentos which are bento boxes of food accompanied by a pot of tea. Their Southeast Asian Tea Bento is served with kaffir lime tartlets w/ mango curd, matcha cheesecake, spiced salmon burgers w/ pineapple & herb salsa & pulled chicken and mushroom taro croquettes. Other lunch options include soup (pumpkin and ginger), sandwiches (spiced Indian chicken) and salads (quinoa crusted salmon).

While there are a couple places to sit at the front of the store, I would choose to sit in their back courtyard, which is a beautiful space filled with several tables of tea drinkers and schmoozer's. Beyond this, there is a separate coach house-type space with even more seating. This room is dressed with antique furniture and art. Cliché as it may be, it's perfect for an afternoon tea.

Some of their eclectic accessories include various tea trays, cups, saucers, tea cozys (these cover your tea pot for warmth), and unique utensils such as their 'Maccha Bowls' which are for grinding tea, and Vietnamese Lacquers which are boxes or trays for holding tea. Many of their accessories are handmade pieces imported from Vietnam, Thailand and Morocco.

Discussion

40 Comments

/ July 5, 2008 at 09:07 pm
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The food is great but the owner seems to be want to spread her misery
lolo / July 22, 2008 at 04:25 pm
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TERRIBLE MANAGEMENT. Although the food and presentation are very pleasant, Red Tea Box is an absolute disaster when it comes to customer service, especially for families with little children well versed in the art of dining in public "adult" type spaces. To be specific, the manager is so rude, it is shocking. The same has been said by others in their dealings with her on issues unrelated to children. Shame for this cute establishment that has worked so hard on creating a wonderful niche in the culinary world. Something as simple as manners lacking can hurt when the word spreads quickly.
/ July 25, 2008 at 07:06 pm
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i can't agree with Catherine more. I do not have little children however I have had the same unfortunate experience, shame on we more than once. This women is the rudest individual I have ever come in contact with. I love the food at the red tea box however she is enough reason never to go back and to make sure no one you know ever goes there either.
/ September 14, 2008 at 10:42 pm
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The woman owner is deservedly getting such a bad reputation for her rudeness all over the internet. I wish someone would boot her out and takeover with the same recipes because the food is divine. Nevertheless, I still go there every once in a blue moon and just avoid her.
melissa / October 11, 2008 at 05:05 am
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the red tea box is a cute idea. with a cute patio.
but whoever the lady is upfront (asian woman) should get fired. and if she owns the place, she should get some lessons on how to deal with customers.
the food was okay. we got the beef sandwich and mushroom soup. the sandwich was tasty. so was the soup, but it was obvious that it was reheated. i didn't have to blow on my soup or wait for it to cool down (like their tea) to have some.
and the biggest disappointment (besides poor management) was dessert. the bill came up to $35, which is fine, but not if almost half of it was spent on a chocolate malt layered cake that was old (it was too crumbly). too much fondant, little cake. i feel like i paid $11 just to eat fondant.
all in all...i'd probably go back. but like anonymous, i'll just avoid the b!tch (or maybe just bitch at her back) and have dessert elsewhere.
/ December 29, 2008 at 09:31 pm
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Everyone seems to hate the staff @ the Red Tea Box, but I've never had any issues. I've been many times and always found them to be quite nice. It has a quiet tranquil atmosphere, which people who visit have to keep in mind.

I find a lot of times people want to go for loud socialization, laughing, joking etc. but this isn't the place for that (if that's what you want go to a pub). You can't change the atmosphere to fit the people, the people have to respect the atmosphere.

Also, it's definitely not a place for children.

It's ideal for relaxing, chilling with friends, light casual gossip over a warm cup of tea and mouth watering food.
tina / December 30, 2008 at 04:07 am
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thanks everyone for your comments. i've seen this tea shop and thought it was absolutely adorable, especially with the cute desserts, but to me customer service is very important. i wonder why the frontlady is such a tight ass. i thought i read that people who drink tea are less irritable, happy individuals.

as for the comment saying that the place is not for socializing or children... not everyone is a single person without kids who wants to go to a cafe and sit alone... (i'm single without kids and i occasionally like to sit places alone, so i'm speaking quite objectively).

if you're in the public eye running an establishment as people-friendly as a cafe, your establishment should be kid friendly, and definitely friendly to people who want to socialize! you can't put people in a social atmosphere (tea drinking, which since the beginning of time was about getting together at tea time with people and chatting).. and then expect everyone to sit in silence...?! what's up with that..

she sounds like a rather bitter lady, unfortunately, because her tea shop looks quite cute and i would love to visit it but customer service is very important to me... i'm one of those letter-writing people who can't stand poor customer service. i'm not going to waste my time or money there, especially since there's lots of cute places with tea and desserts to go visit... maybe not all in the same place, but that'll just mean i'll have to go to two different places .. oh darn.. ;o)

thanks again for your comments!
anonymous / May 8, 2009 at 02:32 pm
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I just called to make a reservation or just to know what I would expect if i came there. The woman on the phone was a horrible B****!! I was shocked! I guess I expected something very warm and welcoming and she was exactly the opposite! The four of us are not going there, EVER!!! Poor thing. I hope she changes her ways, for her own sake. 8 May, 2009
anon / July 21, 2009 at 12:45 pm
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why state the race of the person, melissa? this has no bearing on your statement.
melissa / August 5, 2009 at 03:22 pm
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@ anon - someone's a little sensitive.
if you think it's some sort of ad hominem or some racist comment, it isn't. i'm not saying she's rude because she's asian.
i was just being specific.

Tammy / September 29, 2009 at 11:05 pm
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I have had extremely pleasant experiences at the Red Tea Box for several years now. I love it! I can't believe it when I hear how many people have had 'awful' experiences with the staff there! It is fantastic. Asian fusion, like a real tea room should be!
Tammy / September 29, 2009 at 11:09 pm
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Also, in response to the conversation between anon and melissa - when you need to specify someone's race, especially on a website where restaurant reviews are the mandate, well... it's pretty redundant at this point what the predisposition is.
Karen / October 27, 2009 at 01:50 pm
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I went there this past Sat and was terrified from all the reviews- thankfully I didnt listen.. the food was fantastic. our waitress was very helpful in choosing teas, we even had to wait 45 mins for a guest in our party to show up and no one pressured us to order or anything- I will go there again!
LaLa / January 30, 2010 at 10:34 am
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Who hasn't been to a shop/chef's location and not got some attitude? The two sisters who started this shop (I've been going since the beginning) have worked really hard to keep this place running with creative additions and good food. One is a cordon bleu trained chef - and a good one too. If you don't like the attitudes - may I suggest "take out".
Maureen / July 29, 2010 at 09:02 pm
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excellent customer service, I had visitors in from England, we sat on the patio, enjoyed incredible food, service and ambiance. Other customers, including children, also enjoyed themselves. Very private and away from the busy street and city, as if we were in a quaint countryside cottage. Highly recommended.
Laura / August 11, 2010 at 10:29 am
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I'd love to try this place, but unfortunetly they are NEVER open. Every time I walk by regardless of day of the week or time of day they seem to be closed! I'm all for work/life balance but this is a bit ridiculous....
J. / October 24, 2010 at 09:34 pm
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I went once, had such an awful experience with the staff that I won't ever go back. It's a real shame because the food was great.
SJ / January 27, 2011 at 04:27 pm
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I've also had a couple really awful experiences with one of the employees (who I believe was the owner) on the phone. She snapped at me when I asked her what kind of "cupcakes" they had (they prefer to refer to them as "cakes") and made a couple other rude comments to me.

Having said that, their cakes are awesome...
Alexis replying to a comment from Laura / March 15, 2011 at 01:35 am
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For Laura

They're open Monday(till 6), Wednesday(till 6), Thursday(till 6), Friday(till 7), Saturday(10-7), and Sunday(12-5) every week. Tuesday is their rest day. The kitchen closes an hour and a half before the shop closes each of those days. Not everything on the menu is available every day of the week. Sunday is strictly the Bento Boxes, tea, and desserts (they don't serve sandwiches, soups, and salads). On the weekdays you can order the 1/2 soup, 1/2 sandwich combo.
I hope this helps you plan your visit. The food is delicious, everyone I have ever brought here has loved it, and I feel from reading the reviews that the service is subjective.
Loose Leaf Teas / April 7, 2011 at 02:17 pm
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Thank you for posting this! The Red Tea Box looks like a lovely little establishment. Do they actually sell gourmet teas or loose leaf teas in their store? Thanks!
Jule / June 2, 2011 at 08:57 pm
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I'm curious to go just to see the cranky owner! From all these comments, that might be entertainment enough.
joe / July 16, 2011 at 06:36 pm
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1. rude staff. there is only one girl there that wasnt rude to me when i was looking at the teas and offered to explain some of the choices to me.
2. expensive. REALLY overpriced. you can get the same tea at tealish which is just down a few blocks, a whole lot more of it for LESS then what you spend here on a tiny tin can of tea. also, the cakes are way overpriced for the amount of....
3. icing they put on top. the icing was very buttery, very thick and maybe an inch from the cake part. also, my cakes were ROCK HARD and they weren't frozen. makes me think they were stale, not pleasant AT ALL. would never buy cakes there again. i tried three different flavors and all three tasted the same, spare the insides DUE to the thick, sweet layer of buttery icing on top

i don't think i will ever go there again. the only plus to it is the decor. very lovely decor. everything else is just a scam. amazing what a little visual aid can do to people!
ani / July 18, 2011 at 09:42 pm
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this place is great - I've been going for years - I have no idea what all this is about rude and/or bad service - I have never been treated badly or with disrespect - the food is great the ambience is lovely - worth every cent, including a big tip!!!
Shannon / August 11, 2011 at 01:00 pm
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I was looking through some of the comments and I'm so surprised to see that people weren't happy with the staff! I had such a lovely woman serving me. I want with my mother and sister and they both loved it. The atmosphere, the food, the tea are all really lovely. Maybe you just have to hope for a good server, because it is worth checking out!
Alani / August 13, 2011 at 07:26 am
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I love this place. I take all my out of town guests here and they love it. I've always had fabulous, friendly service, fabulous food served in a delightful relaxed atmosphere. We are never rushed and are allowed to sit for hours over pots of tea.
Tosca / November 8, 2011 at 09:13 am
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:( I LOVE the Red Tea Box...and am SO sad to read some of these horrible reviews.
I've been visiting this amazing, sparkly establishment since it opened and never once received bad attitude, rude owners, poor management, rude/slow wait staff- nothing of what some people have mentioned here. The two sisters that own & run the Red Tea Box are ADORABLE!!!! Super sweet. One is soft spoken and the other more outgoing. Neither are in any way rude.. ?!? When my mother lived here (TO) we would go (TRTB) for lunch maybe once or twice a month and everyone was over the top delightful! In fact, after my mom moved away and I would visit the R. Tea Box to purchase tea or a chocolate to send to her- the owners would always give me large bags of tea, or goodies -on the house- (they didn't have to do this!) for my mom because they missed her.
That all said, I've witnessed a lot of people in Toronto be incredibly rude when they're out shopping or dining to wait staff/business owners. SO MANY people here (in Toronto) have an overwhelming narcissistic sense of entitlement it's disgusting. Add kids and a stroller and this sense of entitlement can grow tenfold.
The Red Tea Box has created a magical environment for people to visit and (re)experience childhood afternoon, make-believe tea parties, a bit Alice in Wonderland & Russian Tea House.

The Red Tea Box is beautifully decorated, full of whimsical, enchanting visuals (their cakes & cookies, and Bentos) definitely not a place for rude people that let their children run amok, yell, scream, or general chaos and crazy Nouveau riche bitches and, best of all the owners have no problem politely, and directly telling people to reign their children in, and telling people, no.

The Red Tea Box is well worth experiencing. Sit back, enjoy some Assam and a lovely cake.
advance pay day loans / February 3, 2012 at 06:04 am
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I will not talk about your competence, the article simply disgusting
Lisa / June 7, 2012 at 10:57 am
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My friends and I actually call it the Stinky Tea Box because of the poor service. However, as we have been a few times, we have decided that it is simply part of the experience. One time we got ourselves all settled in the back - having been brought there by staff - only to be told that they were no longer serving. I guess it was nice of them to let us rest our feet for a bit before booting us out! Good food, bad service (but hilariously so if you're in the right frame of mind).
Arlene / July 29, 2012 at 06:00 pm
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Hello,

I just went with my friends for high tea even after reading all these horrible reviews, and things must have changed because both the service and food were terrific. I told my friends about the previous reviews when we left, and they couldn't believe it either. Anyways I would reccomend it.
Carolyn / September 14, 2012 at 09:20 am
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I had my 50th birthday lunch there, with a bunch of friends and family in the room upstairs out back. In all the communication, organizing and deciding on menu, to the actual event, it was all perfectly normal and pleasant, the way it should be. We had absolutely no issues with staff/service. The food was amazing, beautifully presented I might add. Staff were accommodating, service was excellent. It was the most memorable birthday celebration I've had - that's at least 40 years in memory ;-) So, it is very unfortunate to hear all the 'comments' preceding mine. Perhaps there's just too much expectation these days? The shop has been there for many years, so they are doing something right, oui?
Lala / October 23, 2012 at 10:27 am
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I love this place, and I've been going since it opened (pretty sure at least)... so much so, I've even got a nickname becuase there is a sandwich that I order every time I go... *may have blown my cover*
The food is wonderfully crafted, and it's obvious a lot of effort and thought goes into it. I recommend anyone reading this blog to take it with grain of salt and try the place for yourself.

I'm sure if you treat the staff with respect, you'll be treated with respect too! ...and while you are there, get a dessert, or shortbread to top off your great meal!
zee / November 3, 2012 at 01:55 pm
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After having pushy and rude waitstaff ruin a reunion with an old friend, I've given up on this place after years of going there. I've never been so brusquely rushed through a cup of tea in my life. Sad. I wish I could add something positive, but maybe they'll change their tune after reading what people are saying.
Nicole / December 1, 2012 at 12:49 pm
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This place is super cute and really fun to visit! I had a great time. The food and tea were awesome and our waitress was super friendly.

the ONLY part that makes me reconsider going back is an encounter i had with one of the other wait staff who was INCREDIBLY RUDE and CONDESCENDING on my way out.
at least at that point though it wasnt enough to have ruined my day.
Cat / June 21, 2013 at 11:06 pm
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I have been visiting the Red Tea Box since Lana Lowen of Lowen Pope (bridal gowns) sent me there one day after a fitting back in 2005. After that I made sure to schedule my fittings on the days that the Red Tea Box was open so that my girl friend and I could have a lovely Bento Box lunch. She came equiped with her 6 month old. We never had any problems concerning rude staff. Maybe we were lucky, but a husband and three children later, I still visit a couple times a year when my Mum comes to town and we've had lovely service. I love relaxing and chatting over tea in the carriage house and children present or no, I always enjoy myself.
I do agree that the desserts are definitely not worth the calories, (There's a gelato store a few doors down and Dufflet's Bakery across the street,) but all the savories are to die for! The bento box lunch is quite expensive for the amount of food that you get, but it is always delicious and they make every effort to make adjustments for allergies. All in all, if someone is rude, I guess that it's their problem and subsequently their loss. Hopefully my experiences stay positive. (And if I have a sweet tooth that day, you'll find me later at Dufflet's).
Annie / August 6, 2013 at 01:06 pm
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love the shop, do not care about the service as long as the food is good Unless the service borders on aggressive then I walk out. I have been to Red Tea box many times over the yrs...delightful..think of her as the Troll
Tosca / August 12, 2013 at 02:33 pm
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I've been going to the Red Tea Box ever since they opened. The two sisters have always been extremely sweet, very generous people. They are honest and direct- this is often taken as rudeness in Toronto especially by the self-entitled/important.
They have managed to keep their beautiful aesthetic without kowtowing to the masses.
While I've always viewed their establishment as open and welcome to all, this little tea party may not be for everyone. Happy to write - the sisters have always been amazing to me (and my mother, when she lived here), and I love their cakes!
:)
Anne / August 19, 2013 at 04:41 pm
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I ditto Tosca; well said! To my taste, The Red Tea Box serves the best food in Toronto. In addition to the eclectic, inviting decor, the chefs and staff are also blessed with a richness of character uncommon in Toronto. I'm glad the people spewing out negative energy above have decided to take their bad vibes elsewhere. Yes, it's pricey but worth every penny. Hope to see you there Tosca.
Erin / October 8, 2013 at 09:49 am
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Good food and nice ambience. But the service is awful. It goes well beyond directness; it goes into the realm of rude. I have been there three times and I have had consistently bad experiences with the staff. Not only rude but they also show that if you are not going to spend big, they are not interested in responding to your questions. Perhaps they react like that with only some of us and are sweet with others.
Ryan / October 20, 2013 at 04:19 pm
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^^^If you're not going to spend big?? I've never had any experience like that, and I've been there a few times, sometimes just for tea and snacks. In fact, the last times I was there were only a week apart. The first time my wife paid, and had a brain cramp and left an embarassingly bad tip. We had the same two waitresses a week later, and they were just as friendly and helpful as before, and they definitely recognized us. I had intended to make up for the incorrect tip at the end, which I did, but I didn't say anything about it, and never once did they give any indication that they'd even noticed the previous week (it was noticeably bad/wrong). Which is as it should be, but still commendable.

Anyway, if you like tea and leisurely meals, you just need to try it for yourself to see if you like it. The tea and food are top notch, and the vibe has always been relaxed whenever I've been there. Highly recommended.
Cyril Gomes / November 18, 2013 at 11:58 pm
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Hello,

I am looking to contact the owner or tea buyer, I work for a family that owns Glenburn Tea Estate in Darjeeling and Khongea Tea Estate in Assam and we have been growing tea for 5 generations. We bring the best harvest from each season fresh to the US & Canada, and now have over 200 specialty tea shops that carry our teas including The Tea Zone, Discover Teas, Todd & Holland, Strand Tea, Townshend's Tea, McNulty's and several other well established locations.

Buying tea from us allows you to provide your customers with the finest and freshest Assam and Darjeeling teas. You know exactly where the tea comes from and when it was harvested. More than 4 times the amount of tea is sold as Darjeeling Tea than is produced. With a long supply chain, there are often parties than dilute Darjeeling Tea with less expensive teas. We guarantee our customers Pure Darjeeling Teas.

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